Tip Nation: Tipping Has ‘Hit the Tipping Point’ and Is Out of Control, Many Americans Say

A self-checkout kiosk at Bella's Ices & Ice Cream in New York City

By Anna Breuer on 12 July 2023
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If you think that everyone suddenly has his virtual hand out for a tip in the manner of Ralph, the tip-hungry doorman played by Ned Wertimer in “The Jeffersons,” you may very well be right: In addition to more traditional and tip-appropriate venues (at least in the United States) such as restaurants, taxi cabs, and barber shops, shoppers are being prompted to tip everywhere from convenience stores to self-checkout kiosks at airports.

The United States is largely predicated upon a tipping culture, unlike most other countries in the world.  Unlike in most European countries, where only a small amount of money is given as a gratuity, or in Japan, where a tip would be an insult, waiters, waitresses, bartenders, taxicab drivers, restaurant delivery boys, skycaps, bellmen, and coat check girls depend on tips as part of their income.

Anyone working at a counter such as at a bakery or coffee house is earning a wage that is not tip dependent, yet the self-checkout kiosks at such establishments along with food and beverage stands at stadiums, arenas, and theaters are asking for the traditional 20% tip when really nothing is due unless the employee did something above and beyond.

In addition, when buying a bottle of water or a chocolate bar at an airport newsstand, many customers are beginning to wonder, “tip whom, exactly?” when that extra screen pops up.

At a time when inflation is high due to rising prices, the appearance of an electronic version of Ralph is nothing but tipflation in the making.

Tipflation has led many Americans to think that tip culture is out of control.  A recent FBT survey found that 36% of people thought that tipping has hit the tipping point and is out of control.  In addition, 63% said they hold a negative view of tipping in general.

Mercifully, there are some professions where tipping is simply not a custom, including gas station attendants (unless they are extra helpful checking tire pressure or oil), bus drivers (except for those on tour buses), shop clerks, and department store sales personnel.  This also goes for tradesmen such as carpenters and plumbers, doctors, lawyers, or teachers, although bringing an apple to a teacher is always a nicety.

Finally, keep in mind that attempting to tip police officers, customs officials, and even driver-test examiners could result in your arrest, regardless of the excellent service they may provide.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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